Sikorsky to Build CH-53K Operational Test Helicopters for US Navy

Sikorsky to Build CH-53K Operational Test Helicopters for US Navy
Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. has received a $435 million U.S. Navy contract to build four production-representative CH-53K heavy lift helicopters for the U.S. Marine Corps. Designated as System Demonstration Test Articles (SDTA), the four aircraft will enable the Marines to conduct operational evaluation of the new helicopter system in support of Initial Operational Capability in 2019.

“The four SDTA aircraft are based on the configuration of the fourth and final flight test aircraft currently being assembled on the prototype production line,” said Dr. Michael Torok, Sikorsky’s CH-53K Program Vice President. “We truly appreciate the high level of confidence the Navy and Marine Corps have shown to the CH-53K team as we move forward with this important next phase of the program.”

The Navy has included the SDTA helicopters as an additional line item under the existing $3.5 billion System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract initially awarded to Sikorsky in April 2006. The contract schedule requires that Sikorsky deliver the first SDTA aircraft in 39 months, and the fourth by the end of March 2017, when the Marines will begin operational evaluation. The contract’s cost-plus-incentive fee arrangement incentivizes Sikorsky to deliver early. Sikorsky will perform final assembly of the SDTA aircraft at the company’s Florida Assembly and Flight Operations facility in West Palm Beach.

To date, Sikorsky has delivered two of the seven SDD CH-53K aircraft – the Ground Test Vehicle and the Static Test Article – into the test program, and is finalizing assembly of the four flight test aircraft and the Fatigue Test Article. First flight of a CH-53K prototype aircraft is expected in late 2014.

Once the SDTA aircraft enter operational evaluation in 2017, the Marine Corps will verify the CH-53K helicopter’s capability to carry 27,000 pounds over 110 nautical miles under “high hot” ambient conditions, nearly tripling the external load carrying capacity of the current CH-53E Super Stallion™ helicopter.

Technology enablers for increased lift include three 7,500-shaft-horsepower GE38-1B engines; a split torque transmission design that more efficiently distributes engine power to the main rotors; fourth-generation composite rotor blades for enhanced lift; and a composite airframe structure for reduced weight.

“The SDTA contract represents an exciting and significant milestone in our program,” said Col. Robert Pridgen, the Heavy Lift Helicopters program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command. “We are well on our way to making the CH-53K a reality for our Marines and our Naval fleet. The capability this aircraft brings, in every clime and place, is critical to sustaining the future missions of the Marine Air/Ground Task Force. The future of heavy lift is bright.”

Per the current program of record, the Navy intends to order an additional 196 CH-53K aircraft as part of a separate production contract to stand up eight operational squadrons and one training squadron to support the Marine Corps’ operational requirements. Eventual production quantities would be determined year-by-year over the life of the program based on funding allocations set by Congress and the U.S. Department of Defense acquisition priorities.

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., based in Stratford, Conn., is a world leader in helicopter design, manufacture, and service. United Technologies Corp., based in Hartford, Conn., provides a broad range of high technology products and support services to the aerospace and building systems industries.


Navy Wants to Return Well Decks to Amphib Fleets


After years of believing the Navy would be getting entirely away from ships with well decks — and designing them with that in mind — the Navy anticipates returning them to two of its America-class amphibious warships.

The well decks, used to get Marine gear and equipment from ship to shore as part of any amphibious assault, were for a time seen as unnecessary because of airlift — what was needed ashore would be flown in aboard a CH-53 Sea Stallion or the MV-22 Osprey.

“After Afghanistan and Iraq everything got up-armored, everything got heavier,” Navy Capt. Chris Mercer said on Wednesday during a briefing at the annual Sea-Air-Space Expo at National Harbor, Md.  “So what we can lift with the -53 and -22s is getting less and less.”

With that in mind, the Navy will be returning the well deck to some of the amphibious landing ships it will be procuring in future years. Those currently being built will not have that asset. They are based on the old Tarawa-class amphibious ship, but minus the well deck.

The America, the first ship in the group, was christened late last year but has not yet joined the fleet. The second, to be named the Peleliu, is under construction.

Another three are planned, and at least the last two will reportedly restore the well deck.

Original ship plans also have had to be modified to accommodate the aircraft that will be based on them. The MV-22 and the F-35B — the Marine Corps version of the Joint Strike Fighter — both generate more heat on the decks than other aircraft.

The Navy found that jet blast from an F-35B could harm flight deck personnel up to 75 feet away from the short take-off line. Osprey operations generate head levels that could damage the deck and environmental controls in the spaces immediately below it.

“We are rapidly understanding these [problems] completely now,” Mercer said. He said there are about 14 modifications that need to be made. In some cases it means relocating some deck systems to avoid F-35 and MV-22 approaches.

“As for deck structure … we’ve got some modifications to do that,” he said. These include changing some of the materials used for some of the ships and in other ships adding structure underneath the flight deck at certain spots.

These modifications will also be done to older amphibious landing ships as they go in for maintenance, he said. The later of the new ships will come off the line with the changes already part of their design, he said.

F-35B completes first night short take-off and vertical landing

By:   Dave Majumdar Washington DC

A Lockheed Martin F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) completed its first night short take-off and vertical landing during a test sortie at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, on 2 April.

According to Lockheed and the Pentagon’s F-35 joint programme office (JPO), US Marine Corps test pilot Maj CR Clift conducted the flight to gather data on the aircraft’s helmet and lighting conditions for night time operations. The F-35 JPO says that the flight was conducted using the aircraft’s original Vision Systems International helmet-mounted display equipped with the older Intevac ISIE-10 night vision camera rather than the updated ISIE-11 model.

“The completion of this test event demonstrates the F-35B is one step closer to delivering a critical capability to the US Marine Corps and F-35B partners in the United Kingdom and Italy,” says Lt Gen Chris Bogdan, the F-35 programme executive officer. “There is plenty of work to be done and progress to be made, but we’re on a solid path forward.”

The test was flown as part of ongoing efforts to prepare for the jet for the second of three scheduled sea-trials for the F-35. The first F-35 ship trials happened in October 2011, when two F-35Bs performed 72 vertical landings and take-offs aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp off the Virginia coast. The first two ship-borne test periods are for developmental testing while the third is for operational evaluations.

There is no definitive schedule yet for the second F-35B sea-trial onboard USS Wasp.